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 Referring to references

Hopefully, you’ve devoted quite a bit of time to making sure your resume is flawless...But how much time have you devoted to making sure your reference sheet looks just as good?  Probably not much.  Professional references are a tricky thing, and many people do not know when and how they should be presented to a potential employer.  So here is the scoop on how to put together a professional looking reference sheet, and how to handle its distribution appropriately:



  • Your reference sheet should ‘match’ your resume- Although it is most often handed out separately from your resume, it is still considered part of your ‘paper package’ in much the same way as a cover letter is.  Your header information (name, contact information, e-mail address) should be identical to your resume, down to the font type and size.  Then list your references with name, title, contact information (phone and e-mail) and what your association is with them.
  • Do not submit it with your resume- It is information that should be turned over to a potential employer after a first round interview, and only if it is specifically requested. Occasionally an employer will ask for references to be submitted with the resume- it is your call whether you do, or let them know that you would be happy to provide references at an interview.  Usually companies only check the references of the top few contenders for a position, so holding back until the interview should not present any problems. 
  • Who should be on your reference sheet?  You should have four or five references, and they should all be people with whom you have had a professional relationship in the last five years.  Do not use ‘friends’, and do not use people with whom you worked more than 5 years ago- doing so would cause the recruiter to wonder why you don’t have recent relationships you can use as references.  You should have at least one former boss, and at least one customer.  The remainder can be any business associate who will be able to speak to your skills, attitude and professionalism.
  • Prep your references- Since you will most likely be turning over your reference sheet at your interview, you will be able to prep your references with more information in case they’re called.  Tell them what  about you the interviewer seemed most interested in during the interview, and what skills and experience you would like them to emphasize.